Raising the treadmill's incline increases exercise intensity.
Cardiovascular exercise is an essential part of overall fitness. Not only does cardio help people maintain a healthy weight, it also prevents disease, prolongs life, improves sleep and boosts both immunity and endurance. Although practiced athletes work out regularly at an intense pace for prolonged periods of time, you can ramp up your own respiratory fitness by engaging in basic cardio plans suitable for your health, age and wellness.
Examples of Cardiovascular Exercise
Although certain cardiovascular exercises, such as running, biking and swimming, are well known and easily done, anything that involves movement and raises your heart rate can be considered cardio, according to the American Council on Exercise. Brisk walking, rowing or kayaking, using an elliptical machine, dancing and karate are all forms of cardiovascular exercise. Beginners should choose an easier cardio activity, such as brisk walking, instead of jumping right in to a difficult-to-master exercise such as kickboxing or rowing. Beginners should also consult a physician before starting a new exercise regimen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of medium-intensity cardiovascular exercise -- such as brisk walking -- to maintain your current level of health. To lose weight, increase time spent exercising to 300 minutes. The good news is you can break these big chunks of time into smaller 10-minute increments and achieve the same results. For example, a beginner might take a 10-minute brisk walk in the morning, take another 10 minutes before lunch and follow up dinner with a 10-minute bike ride. Even better, if you increase exercise intensity -- such as swapping brisk walking for jogging -- you can cut the time spent exercising in half to only 75 to 150 minutes per week.
Fueling Your Workout
A key component to enjoying cardiovascular exercise is nutrition. Those who think of food as fuel -- and who fill their bodies with energy-providing nutrients -- have more energy to put toward a workout. Although beginners don't have to follow the rigid nutrition rules that marathoners and triathletes follow, you can take a page from the elite athlete playbook. Avoid consuming heavier proteins in the hour before you eat and instead focus on healthy, lighter carbohydrates such as fruit or grains, suggests MayoClinic.com.
High-Intensity Interval Training
As you become stronger, you'll likely want to increase your workout challenge. High-intensity interval training not only burns fat faster than endurance cardio, it is an effective way to add variety to your workout and is suitable for a range of cardio activities, according to the American Council on Exercise. Unlike endurance workouts that demand a consistent pace -- such as walking at 3.5 mph for 30 minutes -- HIIT alternates brief periods of intense exertion with longer periods of moderate exertion. For example, walk for two minutes at 3.5 mph and then sprint at 7.5 mph for one minute, repeating until you feel like you can't go any farther.